A Minor Book-Making Note
This is for all authors out there who are self-publishing, either online or in print. It's not advice in the traditional sense, but I think it might be useful.
You are only as strong as your weakest link.
Pretty obvious, but not too many authors really appreciate the subtleties of the concept. Let's just assume you're a talented writer, and you've written a good story with great characters and real depth... that in itself is nothing. Absolutely nothing. All you've done is laid the groundwork, which you now need to develop into something truly remarkable. Things like...
Editing. First, you need to edit. Edit for content, edit for spelling, for grammar, for finicky little things you don't even see yourself. One typo will throw the reader out of the story. No matter how good the writing is, too many glitches can ruin it.
Design. You may not realize it, but the layout of your pages makes a big difference. If you don't understand design (which is not a bad thing... it's just like the average person doesn't understand how to craft a novel), it's probably best not to make it up. Take an existing book and copy the design precisely. Print your page and overlay it... is the spacing the same? The font size? The margins? Every last detail contributes to ease-of-use, and you don't want to lose a reader because you got it wrong.
Cover Art. Like it or not, humans are a shallow, superficial lot. If your cover looks like the default design on Lulu, nobody is going to take a second look at it. It's not fair, because the artwork says nothing about the words inside, but that's the way it goes. If you're not a graphic artist (which is a VERY different thing than a painter or sculptor, I should point out), hire someone to do it for you. Don't kill your book before it's seen.
The Blurb. That little block of text that appears on Amazon and on the back cover is vital, and is probably the hardest part of this puzzle, because it will undoubtedly fall on your shoulders to perfect. I don't know the answer of how to do this right, so all I can suggest is to try a bunch of different options, and see which ones are most popular. The blurb isn't just an afterthought, it's your marketing hook. It needs to be sharp.
For many of these things, you can learn to do them pretty well through determination and hard work. If you don't think you can, or don't have the time, then hire someone. It's a major investment, but it will pay off. You don't want to lose readers for stupid reasons, so make sure you take care of the full picture.
Did I miss anything? What bothers YOU about books you've read?